Leading into the event, we were watching the results of GP Vancouver very closely, as it was the next major Modern event after the PT. Abzan was still one of the top decks, with Burn and Infect asserting their fair places in the metagame. The biggest change however, was the major surge in Twin based strategies with Tron basically disappearing from the field due to how poorly it was positioned against Burn, Infect and Twin.
We were ecstatic going into this tournament, given our expected matchups against a field of this makeup, but the increased presence of Burn from the PT meta meant that a 4 color build was likely not going to be viable. Dropping the black meant dropping [card]Lingering Souls[/card] as a sideboard option, so if we were going to back to a 3 color mana base, we needed an Abzan trump card.
Thankfully, Shaun McLaren did that work for us, and was playing [card]Sower of Temptation[/card] at the PT in his UWR list. A follow up video from him showed the real power of the card against Abzan, and it was even seeing play in some UR Twin lists in Vancouver for the Grand Prix. The real power that Sower had for our deck in particular, is that it allowed us to relieve some of the stress on our removal suite. Sower stealing a Rhino or a Tasigur allows us to basically need two less removal spells, as the creature it steals likely also will be able to hold off another if necessary. Sower is uniquely positioned against Abzan in particular, as it has built in Liliana protection and is difficult for them to remove given the current configuration of their removal spells. With [card]Lingering Souls[/card] coming out of the board, and less of a need for [card]Valorous Stance[/card] as a function of the Sower addition, we had some sideboard spaces to play with. Burn can be a tough match sometimes if we don’t find enough removal or copies of [card]Lightning Helix[/card] to help stem the bleeding. MTGO has been full of Burn for some time, and after adding [card]Kor Firewalker[/card] to the board, I’ve not lost a single match to them in which I resolved one. Given the expectations of the field, adding some of these was a sure thing.
Here is the list that we all registered:
#TeamGeist – SCG Baltimore Open
2 Arid Mesa
4 Celestial Colonnade
1 Eiganjo Castle
3 Flooded Strand
2 Ghost Quarter
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Forked Bolt
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
4 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Restoration Angel
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Thundermaw Hellkite
3 Vendilion Clique
1 Celestial Purge
2 Engineered Explosives
3 Kor Firewalker
2 Sower of Temptation
2 Valorous Stance
2 Wear // Tear
The last change is our swap of the [card]Valorous Stance[/card] in the main deck to a [card]Forked Bolt[/card]. Testing leading into the event made me want another early removal spell, and we tested out [card]Burst Lightning[/card], [card]Harvest Pyre[/card], even a third [card]Electrolyze[/card] was on the table, but ultimately another 3 casting cost spell was not what we were in the market for. With Infect, Affinity and [card]Lingering Souls[/card] being regular format staples, [card]Forked Bolt[/card] got the nod. I believe it turned out to be the best possible choice, and earned great value off of it in a number of matchups throughout the day. Often trading one mana for two cards in a number of matchups was great, but even against [card]Lingering Souls[/card], a one mana and card exchange for the 3 mana investment and half card from the Souls side was good. Being one mana generally allowed us to double spell more often, helping to jump ahead on tempo.
Instead of your traditional report structure, here is the summary of the event
R1 – Affinity – W 2-1 – [card]Forked Bolt[/card] was insane for me on the turn 1 play in game 2. [card]Engineered Explosives[/card] also earned a turn 2 4 for 1 in game 3.
R2 – Abzan – W 2-0 – Game plan executed as expected. I saw no Liliana from opponent in game 1, and minimal amounts of discard. The plan we are looking to execute in this match is very good when unfettered by these things. I knew my opponent was thin on action when he was using [card]Lingering Souls[/card] to start chumping instead of trying to race me.
R3 – Esper Gifts – L 2-1 – Game one was a real close one, and I could have pulled it out with a top deck Bolt or Snap, no avail. Game 2, Geist went all the way, and G3 was 5 total spells in 9 turns.
R4 – Abzan – L 2-1 – Game one I see only one Liliana, and I have multiple Clique/Angel interactions to keep his action down. Game 2 I get turn 2 Liliana on the play from a [card]Noble Hierarch[/card], and I can’t keep up. Game 3 is really close, and goes long. I end up 3 points short again.
R5 – Polymorph/Breach – W 2-0 – I have infinite removal spells and counterspells. That’s that.
R6 – Abzan – L 2-0 – There are draws which are almost unbeatable from Abzan. Most notably, IOK, Goyf, Liliana, Tasigur/Ooze in that order. Game 2 I have to double mulligan on the play and get absolutely wrecked again.
R7 – Abzan – W 2-0 – G1 I draw a lot of Paths, Snaps and Angels while the opponent draws more guys to give me targets for said Paths. Bolt into Snap Bolt closes. G2 I execute our Abzan Game plan perfectly as I survive back to back [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] with [card]Valorous Stance[/card], Angel, and [card]Sower of Temptation[/card]. I’m able to play to a clear board, then opponent casts Rhino, I steal with Sower, and then end up Blinking said Rhino with my [card]Restoration Angel[/card].
R8 – UR Twin – L 2-1 – G1 I resolve Geist on the play on turn 3. Opponent resolves [card]Blood Moon[/card] in response. I thankfully had an island on the table and two remands to prevent blockers, along with an [card]Electrolyze[/card] to finish. G2 I get super aggressive with a Wear // Tear on a Blood Moon/Spellskite, and get punished when the opponent untaps and combos me. G3 I am without red mana for too long, and get killed by a sea of unkillable creatures.
I know for a fact that I was not playing to the best of my ability this weekend. I felt underprepared, both mentally, but also physically. Normally, I come equipped with a ton of quality healthy snacks to keep me going through the tournament, along with a good amount of water. Unfortunately, I was ill equipped, and found myself hitting walls through the day, feeling fatigue and hunger at a number of points. Make sure that you come prepared for these things and equip yourself accordingly. Also, a good night’s sleep should not be undervalued. It’s great to see all of your friends at these events, but if you want to do well, go to bed.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the tournament, and on the list in particular, and I’m very happy with it almost exactly as is. Our plan against Abzan is amazing right now, Burn is now very simple with Firewalkers, Sower has proven its value in a bunch more matches than just Abzan, and Twin should just be a good match for us. If I were to try out one change, it would be to change a [card]Kor Firewalker[/card] in the board for a single [card]Spellskite[/card]. This would also be fine vs Burn, but would improve the Affinity, Infect, and Twin matchups. None of these are bad matches per se, but a little more help couldn’t hurt. I ended up mulliganing a lot I think, and most of the games which I kept 7 cards in I won, especially if on the play. This deck is extremely powerful and sorely underrepresented right now. That said, it is definitely a metagame deck in that you will do very well against established archetypes, and likely struggle against more fringe decks. Jason Clark (@RealEvilGenius) played the list, and after losing round 1, found himself playing against a bunch of strange decks like Dredge, White/Red [card]Blood Moon[/card], and a bunch of others. Suffice it to say, his day ended before mine did. If you are going to play this deck at a major tournament, I encourage you to find a way to get some byes. You will find your matchups to be decisively better.
Huge thanks to my wonderful #TeamGeist partners, Larry Swasey, Jason Clark, Andrew Huska, and Nathan Quintanilla. Without them I know for certain that the deck would not be as good as it is right now, and I know that I wouldn’t be either.
See you all on stream!!